A couple weeks ago I was in the middle of critiquing a 90K story for a group on Scribophile dedicated to getting entire novels critiqued. Because that's a huge time commitment and it takes some organization and reciprocity to get done. I don't having anything ready for them to read but I figured I had some time and should continue to be a member in good standing for when I do have a novella or novel. Because there is nothing I want to do less than critique a novel while I'm in full revision mode for my own stuff.
So, 90K words (about 35 chapters, as Scribophile breaks things into chapters) in the modern fantasy genre. Magic, world building, other species, all sorts of good stuff.
I got through 15 chapters, having told the author that as a reader, I would have stopped after chapter ten. It was like slamming my head against a wall of my personal pet peeves and piques in writing.
With much trepidation, I contacted the group leader, saying I just couldn't do this. That trying to force myself through this particular story would mean that I would blow the group's deadline by weeks. I was worried because I felt like I was being a pain in the butt – the previous time I'd critiqued for this group, I'd had to contact the same group leader and say that I was going to miss the deadline. That the book I was critiquing that time had so many issues that I could only force myself to critique a chapter a day, or so. (Look, a story where the main character is female and the surrounding characters consist of two women and one dude should really pass the Bechdel-Wallace test before chapter twenty [if then], okay?) Two times stepping up to the plate and both times I have to go to the group leader and say I can't do this. Blerg. I mean, at least I said 'what can I do to fulfill my obligations to the group?'
But the group leader was really awesome. Totally happy to let me switch to a different (shorter) story and work on the latest deadline (today actually), not the original May 16th one.
I think I should let them pick what I'll critique from now on. When I choose, I get a sequel. Either an offensive portrayal of women or an aggressively mediocre, the emotions/motivations aren't making sense sequel.
When group leader chooses, I get a 45K word fun, intriguing world-building, adventure story in the style of a boy's adventure from the 19th or early 20th century.
Which is not to say I was great about holding to my self-calculated minimum of 2 chapters a day, in order to make the deadline. But I buckled down this weekend and spent most of Saturday and all of Sunday morning alternating between critiquing two chapters in a go and playing some 2048 to clear my mind.
I am so happy to have finished. Including the two chapters posted on Friday that I didn't know about until late Sunday morning! It's not quite the same feeling as putting the last word down on a first draft. But there is definitely that element of 'whee! I finished a project!' to it. The satisfaction of (hopefully) helping someone make their writing better. Of checking something off the mental to-do list. Of having fulfilled my word. I've kinda got a thing about following through on my word.
One of the nice/frustrating (nicely frustrating?) things about this particular story was occasionally I'd read through a chapter and think it was excellent as is, nothing to say critique-wise. I always found enough suggestions I could make to give it another polish on a second read-through, but dang if that wasn't the best problem to have.
So! Go, give this story a read through – the author deserves your time: